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Companies often offer rewards for finding security issues in their products or their own IT systems, and hackathons have a long history.

I'm just wondering if there has ever been a deliberate challenge to find a satellite? I am not sure how it could be done exactly, but an "extra" cubesat or substantial bit of debris not present in publicly available catalogs might be deployed by something invisible (the ghost of Zuma perhaps?) and then the announcement would be "There's a new undocumented satellite up there in LEO, who can find it first?"

This could also be done as an exercise or a drill by a military or government organization. This is a bit of a soft question because I don't want to overly define it and accidentally pre-exclude answers that will turn out to be interesting.

I wonder if this could be an orbital analog of geocaching or actually stratochaching?

No secrets please! Use only publicly available sources of information.

Question: Has there ever been a "Find A Satellite" challenge where a new, undocumented object in LEO somehow comes to be and folks are encouraged to look for it by any means necessary?

Actually, could there be? Or would there always be some way to "cheat the system"?

note: home-made radar sets are probably strongly discouraged, but tracking based on visual sightings (wide field cameras digitally recorded) or listening to "beep beep" of beacons or telemetry are certainly possible.


this answer to Which satellite constellations are already operational in LEO (Low Earth Orbit)? got me re-reading How (the heck) are military satellites with (apparently) classified TLEs still showing up on sat map websites? and that got me wondering about this.

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    $\begingroup$ Yes. 1957, Sputnik 1 and thereafter! There is also satobs.org/seesat which I'm sure you are aware of. For a bit of history check out en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kettering_Grammar_School . I think this question could do with some refining despite your intention otherwise, perhaps a few questions, each one learning from its predecessor, is the way to go. $\endgroup$
    – Puffin
    May 18, 2021 at 13:18
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    $\begingroup$ @Puffin I don't see how to subdivide this. Sputnik 1 was not deployed as a challenge, though it did present one. My guess is that no, this has never been done deliberately. And now maybe I see a refinement. I am asking about a deliberate challenge not just a situation that presented one. So I'll edit "deliberate" into the question now in two places. Lets give this a few days to see if anythjng turns up; my guess is that it's never been done. $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    May 18, 2021 at 13:35
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    $\begingroup$ Ah, I now see a glimpse of where you are going. Lets say someone were to create such a challenge, either it is without a known target or that same sponsor has created a real satellite that they believe will evade the public catalogues. It reminds me of Moonraker slightly! $\endgroup$
    – Puffin
    May 18, 2021 at 13:45
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    $\begingroup$ I've never heard of such a thing (deliberate challenge), and I would argue it would show really poor citizenship on the part of the launching party if they are trying to "hide" on purpose. Furthermore CSPOC and and commercial tracking systems like LeoLabs would quickly find them if they were findable. $\endgroup$
    – Carlos N
    May 24, 2021 at 22:21
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    $\begingroup$ @CarlosN I wonder if CSPOC and commercial tracking systems like LeoLabs would enjoy and welcome such a challenge :-) It's certainly a good point that putting a new thing in a new orbit secretly, deliberately, and just for "fun" is going to meet with some reproach. Of course governments put new things in new orbits secretly, deliberately, and for deadly-serious reasons from time to time, and when it becomes public it meets with substantial reproach. $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    May 24, 2021 at 22:29

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